Lady of Quality, 1972; Sourcebooks reissue 2007
Annis Wychwood, age 29, is "on the shelf," as they say. She enjoys being single, but finds her brother irritating, so she moves to Bath with a chaperone. One day, she meets a pair of teenagers in a broken carriage, who end up changing her life. The girl is an orphan, left in the charge of her aunt, who keeps her in an overprotected life. Her uncle (on the other side), Mr. Oliver Carleton, is rude and generally wants nothing to do with her, not being particularly interested in raising a teenager.
It's no surprise that Annis and Oliver meet and cross their verbal swords, exchanging set-downs and the like in the Regency style. It's also no surprise that they end up falling for each other, somewhat inexplicably. (You can deduce that simply by reading the back of the book.) But half the fun of reading a romance novel, whose outcome you can generally foresee when you meet your protagonists, is how the characters get there.
I liked this one better than the next one, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on.
The Grand Sophy, 1950; Sourcebooks reissue 2009.
Sophy is sent to live with her aunt and uncle while her father is on a diplomatic mission to Brazil. Her mother died when she was young, and she spent far too much time (for the mores of the period) around soldiers. She's headstrong and generally fabulous. She's only 22, which I kept forgetting.
While at her aunt and uncle's, she resolves to "fix" some bad matches in her family, starting with her cousin Cecelia, who's fallen in love with a poet. Her second target is her cousin Charles, who's taken up with a rather dull character, who's marrying him for the money and is against Fun.
Naturally, Charles and Sophy take to each other like cats and dogs. I'd forgotten that it was common (or at least not taboo) among nobles during that period (indeed, up until the early 20th century) to marry their cousins, or I wouldn't have been quite as surprised when Charles' reaction indicated he was going to marry Sophy.
A Heyer novel typically includes manners and nobles and a romance starting with mutual dislike. It also includes a list of things writers are told not to do: synonyms for said, infodumping characters' life stories when they're introduced, jumping POV without warning. Once you get used to these things, which have fallen out of modern publishing conventions, it's OK, but it takes a bit.
That said, after reading them, I wanted to find something more akin to what I'm working on, to get my mind's gears working in that direction. So I picked up a book that's been on my shelf for months. I'm currently in chapter 3.